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Thread: Harrison 'Cap' Calloway interview

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    Harrison 'Cap' Calloway interview

    Excerpt from a fascinating interview with ‘Cap’ [deceased 2016]. It was claimed by Robert Fisher that he recorded with them - unreleased. After Jimmy left Nashville, he joined the King Kasuals horn section. And [after that?/overlapping?/concurrently?] the Kasuals’ horn section became the Muscle Shoals ‘Fame Gang’ horn section. His timing about who was in the Kasuals when is a bit wonky too, it seems. The interviewer transcribes ‘Kasuals’ as ‘Casuals’ and appears to have misheard ‘Varnell’ as ‘Fonell’ [ie Aaron ‘Heinz Ketchup’ Varnell, who also played with the Bonnevilles/Kasuals/Muscle Shoals and was in ‘The!!! Beat Boys’ with Cox and Johnny Jones too].
    Link to full interview below:

    How did you then get into the music scene and performing?
    Nashville is known as a country music town but there was a record company there called WLAC Records which at that time in the early sixties and it was run by two gentlemen Bill Hoss Allen and John Richburg and they were dj’s at that station and they played all black music and by them being a 100 Watt station you could hear them everywhere and they had a record company named Randy’s Records and at night they would play records and tell you to come down to the store and buy Jimmy Reed’s latest record and I thought these two guys were black and they kept black music alive.

    In my years at Tennessee State we had a band there called The King Casuals[sic ‘Kasuals’] and I was walking down the street on e day after having lunch with my trumpet under my arm and this black Cadillac pulled up alongside me and I used to wear my pants real high back them and they used to call me pockets. This voice came out of the Cadillac asking me if I wanted a gig and it turned out to be Earl Gaines and he said he was going to Jackson, Tennessee and he would pay $15 and he would feed me. So I jumped at it and we headed for Jackson and in his band then was a older guy playing saxophone named Shaky and I learnt a lot from him. I didn’t know any of Earls’ music so before each song Shaky would run over to me and tell me what key it was in and things. Earl was pretty impressed with what I did and they then started calling me Cap which was short for Calloway so that’s how I got that nickname.
    Earl was signed up to Excello Records back then which was run by Hoss Allen’s mother and Earl told the label about me and when Earl got ready to learn a new song he would bring me the song and asked me to do the arrangements for the band and that’s how I got into arrangement. Now Excello had several different artists one being Roscoe Shelton and they asked me to arrange songs for him and they were going to Muscle Shoals Fame recording studios one weekend and they wanted me to arrange a song for the horns and the rhythm section for Shelton. They paid me $150 for that song called ‘Strain On My Heart’ and they put that record out and it went to number one and folks started asking who had done the music for the number. It just started happening after that for me and I started getting a lot of recognition and people like Bobby Bland and B.B. King he wanted me to go out and play with him but I was still at college then and my mother would have killed me if I had done that so I stayed on at school and I am glad I did. I met the likes of Jimmy Hendrix and Billy Cox and we had this club that we played at when I was still at college in Nashville in a small band. So when I did that arranging for Roscoe Shelton that made me want to do more arranging rather just playing the trumpet.
    Did you do anything else with any other Excello artists?
    I did stuff with Earl Gaines and Frank And The Dynamics and I did arrangements for both Earl and Roscoe. I did several songs on Earl but I can’t remember what they were. I did teach music for two years at Booker Washington high school but after that I went back to Nashville and we started up the King Casuals[sic] band again and we played at the New Era club and all the different artists that would come to Nashville to perform after they got through performing would come down to this club and sit in with our band. We had Millie Jackson, Joe Tex, Freddy Scott, Mittie Collier and many more sit in with us and word got around that I was back.
    On Saturdays and Sundays we had what we called a matinee and all the young ladies from the colleges would come out and hear us play from 2 to 6. On Sundays we would never allow other musicians to come in and play with us it was just our band playing the matinee. One Sunday there was this light skinned tall guy with a guitar and he walked up to the bandstand and asked if he could sit in and the band leader who was the guitar player Johnny Jones, the band consisted of Harold Nesbit, Harvey Thompson, Aaron Fonell and Billy Cox, so this guy asked if he could sit in. So he took his guitar and started walking out the door. He had an army uniform on and the club owner asked us to let him sit in. The band leader looked at me and we did one of the hardest songs to play called ‘Our Day Will Come’ and speeded it up and this guitar player took this great solo which made us all look. After he had done that he packed up his guitar was just about to walk out the door and the club owner asked who he was and he replied Jimmy Hendrix and two weeks after that he was discharged out of the army and he came back and played with us for about six months. Then Little Richard came through town and heard him play and hired him.
    How did things develop for you from there?
    Aaron Fonell came down to Muscle Shoals where I did that Roscoe Shelton number. He came down to work for Fame Records and Rick Hall and Aaron put a little section together to record and Rick remembered me from doing the session on Roscoe and Rick asked me to do some work for him at the studio and do some arrangements and sent me a $500 advance to do some recordings on Clarence Carter. So we did ‘Slip Away’ and ‘Patches’ and that got me started there. Now Jimmy Johnson and them had a group called The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section and they at the time were working for Rick Hall at Fame Records under his supervision and later on they formed their own group. Rick had us under contract for about a year and we did Donny Osmond and The Osmonds. I did arrangements for those artists and we had Wilson Pickett, Candi Staton, Mack Davis and we were on a roll then.
    I was doing the writing and arranging for these artists and my contract was nearly at an end and I thought when the contract was over I could charge whatever I liked for the arrangements. So I formed the group The Muscle Shoals Horns and we worked independently out of Alabama and Nashville and some of my greatest works were country and with the Oak Ridge Boys. I’m the first arranger that tried to double the baritone saxophone with a bass singer on ‘Elvira’ so I got into country with the horns. So when Rick relieved us from our contract that enabled us to work with Jimmy Johnson who had moved across town under the supervision of Jerry Wexler and he loved us. Now Rick wanted us to move to Alabama and he would help us get a house and he offered us a lot of money to move to Alabama. So it started growing from there.

    Frank Zappa: "Rock journalism is people who can't write interviewing people who can't talk for people who can't read."

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